Taking 4 sex offenders off probation in Suffolk criticized
In March, four convicted sex offenders on probation in Suffolk were removed from the department's rolls before their sentences were supposed to end.
So, their whereabouts and compliance with terms of their sentences - conditions that were ordered by a judge - are no longer being monitored by probation officers.
The move, which legislators aired Thursday at a meeting of the Public Safety Committee of the Suffolk Legislature in Hauppauge, made a small dent in caseloads of eight probation officers who keep track of 350 sex offenders.
But it also alarmed victims advocates and Suffolk legislators who said granting early release to a group that is among the most notorious for re-offending endangers the public.
"It's outrageous and it compromises public safety," said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, in Stony Brook.
She cited the state Probation Sex Offender Management Practitioner guide of 2009, which says, "Absent extraordinary circumstances, probation departments should not ask the court to grant or support early discharge from probation supervision for sex offenders," because they re-offend far less when closely monitored.
Ahearn said she heard that 15 sex offenders were removed. She was upset that no victims had been notified. County officials confirmed only four sex offenders were removed.
Probation director John Desmond said that the probation department, after a general review of cases, recommended ending supervision of the four to judges.
Dan Aug, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, said Levy put a stop to the practice of allowing early discharge of sex offenders when he found out about it in March.
Nassau officials said they have never recommended a sex offender for early discharge.
Desmond said his department recommended discharge because the four had complied with their probation terms and "we're at the point of diminishing returns having some of these individuals under supervision."
The offenders now have no ties to the criminal-justice system for those crimes, though they may still have to report their addresses under Megan's Law.
"We only recommend to the courts on rare occasions that people be discharged from probation," Desmond said, responding to committee chairman Legis. Jack Eddington (I-Medford), who said he would draft legislation to bar recommending release. "The court makes the determination if an individual should be released or not."
Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) asked Desmond how many sex offenders have been recommended for discharge since he began running the agency in 2002. Desmond recalled one person.
"When it comes to these people, I'm sorry," said Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley). "Lifetime [supervision] is what they need."